To the Latrobe university students, staff, administration and the general public.
We the Stop the HUSS Cuts collective have peaceably occupied the central Agora area of the university in protest of the cuts to the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, which set a dangerous precedent for all faculties within and outside this university. Through this occupation we are also protesting the attacks on our freedom of speech and rights to protest by the university administration, and the threats of exclusion that we have been subjected to for exercising our rights to peaceful assembly. We do not intend to cause disruption or undue inconvenience to anyone, and have and will continue to occupy this space in a peaceful, open and honest manner.
We have occupied the Agora area as a symbolic place for assembly, as it represents not only the heart of the university (which these cuts threaten to rip out) but also a public space for the discussion of ideas and debate which we value so highly. The threats from the university attempt to stifle our discussion and debate, and we will not stand for such silencing.
We openly invite all students, staff and anyone interested to come and speak with us about the cuts, or any other matter. This is an open occupation and all are welcome.
In peaceful protest,
The Stop the HUSS Cuts collective.
I arrived at Bundoora campus a little later than most, unfortunately missing the ground tour and occupation of the campus (though I have heard a lot of positive comments about a particular staff lounge’s coffee!). When I got to the Agora there was already a large crowd of people and a gazebo erected and a table holding some food. We came together for an assembly in which we discussed the occupation, our demands and what we wanted to get from our actions.
As we talked, reports came through that the University was threatening students with exclusion from their courses if they participated in the Occupation or any political actions on Open Day; specific mention was made of cases being built against particular students for general misdemeanours and discipline by the university. We discussed what this might mean for students and concluded that it is to be a personal choice as to whether students participate in the action and that those students who choose not to participate will still be respected and welcomed.
Most importantly, we decided to prolong the Occupation indefinitely, with an aim to still be here on Open Day this Sunday.
When the meeting had concluded we had the beginnings of our Occupy Village with two sleeping tents, the marquee and now two tables set up. Our well known tombstone placards were also dotted around the grass circle with slogans written on cardboard and printed posters. We also had several working groups forming from the crowd and as the afternoon continued on, groups of people started arriving with large bags of food and blankets.
Discussion circles came together soon after, with students talking about the cuts here and around Australia, student and political movements from the past and politics around the world. There was also a bit of discussion on Facebook and we soon found ourselves in receipt of eight solidarity pizzas, ordered in by supporters who couldn’t join us in person. With good food and good cheer an excellent atmosphere developed and there was a great feeling of positivity amongst us.
Spurred on by this good mood and eagerness to act, various suggestions were made for turning Occupy La Trobe into a complete Occupy-style occasion, with teach-ins, workshops and discussion groups that would allow the general student body to interact with the Occupiers.
To this end, we are looking for people from the student body and the wider community who would be interested in running workshops, discussion circles and seminars on a wide variety of subjects: already we are considering ones on Non-Violent Communication and Online Activist Security but would welcome any suggestions. Critical theory, citizen media, feminism, activist and organisation We are here to learn, after all.
We will also publish a wish list of items and food that we would welcome as donations to keep the Occupation going until Open Day. We will also publish timetables of events when they are organised so that you can come along.
Last, but not least, we will organise an information desk at the Occupation for students to ask questions about us, the occupation, activism or anything much else that comes to mind. With any luck we will also be able to display the timetable and wish list there too.